Watching Florida Gulf Coast's women play basketball is fun.
For those about fundamentals, old-school stuff, setting screens, reading screens, spelling "screens" and spot-up shooting plus non-stop hustle, watching the Eagles is rejuvenating, inspiring.
And so one can't help but respect the job from start to finish and A to Z of head coach Karl Smesko, who has been the man there from day one.
Plus, going undefeated in a month of conference play in anything anywhere is an accomplishment, and FGCU has been perfect for two straight seasons, and is beating BCS programs regularly, home or away.
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Nevertheless, Smesko getting Atlantic Sun women's coach of the year this season - thiiiis season - over Mercer's Susie Gardner is absolutely baffling. And nobody will have accuse your's truly of homerism, certainly not with Mercer.
And, as note here previously, it takes no Einstein or mathematician or Michael Kuzak/Jack McCoy/Perry Mason to say why.
One has built a program that simply reloads.
The other took over a program that wasn't much, but was 31-30 in the previous two seasons, and was clearly moving forward. And the other took over that program in June.
A pair of shouldn't-have-been-that-bad seasons followed, Mercer going 8-50 and suffering serious thwackings.
This season, going .500 would have been cause to mention Gardner in conference COY chats. But this group sniffed 20 wins in the regular season. Didn't end strong, but frankly, that was about the only real hiccup.
Mercer opened the school year and workouts with one team, opened the season with another, and opened 2013 with yet another, thanks to injuries, major injuries to two players who had all-conference on the resume.
And shockingly, still threatened to win 20. Didn't fall down or hit a slump, instead going on a long winning streak after opening conference play 0-2.
Smesko obviously doesn't push a cruise-control button, it only seems that way because is program is fairly seamless. But who had to do more work? Whose season surprised, if not shocked? And frankly, the women's side of the A-Sun is in no way daunting, it's top-heavy and limited in the level of competition.
Maybe the lack of quality wins hurt. Maybe the poundings by FGCU and Stetson hurt. Don't know.
When a team finishes three or four spots ahead of where predicted, that's impressive and worth of consideration, but understandable if somebody else gets the nod. But passing more than half of the conference from preseason to postseason?
That should pretty much be automatic.
On the money, a bit
Called Sherwood Brown and Victoria McGowan Hansen as MVPs, batting .500.
Men: missed two first-teamers. Eshaunte Jones and Parker Smith made it, Travis Smith and none of the three - Markeith Cummings, Willie Green or Jarvis Jones - made the final spot.
Second team was more off. Jones and Langston Hall made it.
Of the top 10, I had six of them, not all in the right order.
Thought Bob Hoffman as top coach might be the way to go since it was close between Casey Alexander and Andy Enfield, and that none of the three was a bad call.
Women: Had four first-teamers right, swapping Mercer's Kendra Grant and USC Upstate's Tee'Ara Copney. Had two right on the second team.
So, eight out of 10 on the two teams. Missed on Jacksonville's Queen Alford and NKU's Tiara Hopper.
Did guess that Stetson might have more than FGCU, and the Hatters did. Interesting that FGCU's Brittany Kennedy, the top defender, was the lone unanimous pick.
Day One, looking ahead
Florida Gulf Coast's women may start off a little sluggish, what with a noon game against a not-contending team.
Kennesaw State has some quality, and could make it interesting for the first 10 minutes.
And then it won't be interesting.
FGCU-North Florida men, however, will be interesting for 40 minutes. Or at least about 37. The Eagles are pretty steady, and that's what will pay off down the stretch.
It'll be a surprise if Stetson's women don't struggle with ETSU. And when the Mercer men's crowd shows up, those who understand things will pull for ETSU and the upset, which helps Mercer's women by A) knocking out the two seed; B) put the female Bears on upset alert for Thursday's opening game, not that they'll take Jacksonville lightly after two close games.
The nightcap should be a pure March Madness atmosphere followed by some less-than-hot basketball. Lipscomb grinds, and Mercer can play that.
Mercer is the better team, but if Lipscomb comes out smart and patient and fundamental, this will be a 40-minute game, like the first meeting. If the Bisons are unable to slow down a Mercer run, it'll be closer to the second game, a rout in which Mercer threatened to lead by 40.
The guess here is everybody will be standing and screaming for the final two minutes.
The men's tournament has more teams that can win. And note that the bottom seeds also get that day off if they can pull off the upset.
And both bottom seeds can do that.
News, notes and notables
From Georgia College:
The Peach Belt Conference (PBC) released its All-PBC men’s basketball teams Tuesday, with Georgia College senior forward Scott Ferguson (Roswell, Ga.) earning a spot on the third team.
Ferguson has been a team leader for the Bobcats all season long, ranking 12th in the PBC in scoring (15.7), 11th in rebounding (7.2) and 15th in blocks (19). He posted 19 double-digit scoring games, including four with 20-plus scoring.
Senior pitcher Dani Gallucci (Orlando, Fla.) of the Georgia College softball team (14-10, 2-2 PBC) was named Peach Belt Conference (PBC) Pitcher of the Week.
She was nearly unhittable, pitching two complete games, including an extra-inning outing against Francis Marion University. She struck out 16 and didn’t allow a run. Gallucci tossed 15 innings of shutout ball over her two games.
She faced off against Fort Valley State University Thursday, Feb. 28 and held the Wildcats to three hits while striking out nine batters.
The Peach Belt Conference (PBC) released its weekly baseball awards Tuesday, with Georgia College sophomore first baseman Clay Ardeeser (Loganville, Ga.) taking home PBC Player of the Week honors.
Ardeeser went 7-for-14 (.500) this week with a home run, six RBI and five runs scored. The sophomore slugged a whopping .786, adding a double as well among his seven hits.
The Georgia College golf team earned a No. 11 ranking in the latest Golf World/Nike Golf Coaches’ Association of America (GCAA) Division II National Poll and No. 12 in the Golfstat Head-to-Head Rankings.
GC golf is among four other Peach Belt Conference (PBC) teams ranked in the top-25 in the Golf World Coaches’ Poll. In the PBC, the Bobcats are third behind No. 3 USC-Aiken and No. 10 Columbus State University and behind the No. 12 Bobcats are No. 19 Armstrong and No. 24 Georgia Southwestern State University. The No. 1 ranking in the Golf World Coaches’ Poll belongs to Barry University.
From Mercer's club wrestling team:
Finished second among 14 qualifiers at National Collegiate Wrestling Assertions - is that "association" typed with a Southern accent? - championship.
All 11 starters and 3 backup wrestlers will be going to Nationals March 10th – 16th in Dallas, TX. Had 3 guys win the conference, 1 guy placed 2nd, 4 guys placed 3rd, 2 guys placed 5th , 3 guys placed 6th and one wildcard. This is a new record number of wrestlers going to national from Mercer University Wrestling.
Top 5 teams: Central Florida, Mercer, Marion Military Institute, South Florida, Georgia.